Sexual assault and harassment can take many forms. More recently, there has been a growing national interest particularly with regard to personal safety and the use of popular ride-sharing services, like Uber and Lyft. King County has recently considered the implementation of additional requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers, including the posting of clear signage and/or fingerprinting prior to the issuance of permanent ride-hailing licenses to drivers.
These ride-sharing companies already perform mandatory third-party annual background checks on their drivers that include:
- searches of driving records,
- criminal records, and
- sexual offender registries.
Nonetheless, King County officials are concerned that these measures are not enough considering the over 100 accusations of sexual assault by Uber or Lyft drivers nationally in the last four years. Several cities and states have already imposed various additional requirements on Uber and Lyft drivers to improve rider safety.
In Seattle, this past April, 34-year-old Ghassan Shakir, of Tukwila, was charged with rape in connection to at least five sexual assaults dating back five years to 2014 in his capacity as an Uber or Lyft driver. Similarly, this past May, a Seattle woman was forced to jump out of a moving car when she felt harassed by the Uber driver who was making inappropriate comments towards her and had locked her in the vehicle.
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) advises that sexual assault can be any non-consensual sexual contact or behavior and can occur by force, coercion, manipulation. Similarly, consent is the agreement to engage in sexual activity with knowledge and understanding of what is being agreed upon. In Washington, there are several felony sexual assault crimes, including:
- Rape in the 1st Degree: rape with the use of force with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, serious injury, or illegal entry to reach the victim. (RCW 9A.44.040)
- Rape in the 2nd Degree: rape with the use of forced compulsion whereby the victim is physically or mentally incapacitated. (RCW 9a.44.050)
- Rape in the 3rd Degree: rape with the lack of sexual consent expressed verbally or by conduct. (RCW 9A.44.060)
- Indecent Liberties: sexual contact by force when the victim is physically or mentally defective or incapacitated, developmentally disabled, among other enumerated circumstances. (RCW 9a.44.100)
Uber has also published several safety tips for riders utilizing its services, including:
- Confirming that the vehicle you are getting into is the rideshare vehicle you requested with a license plate, vehicle make and model, and driver photo;
- Asking the driver to confirm your name;
- Sitting in the back seat, especially when traveling alone to give you some personal space from the driver;
- Sharing your trip details with family and friends including the driver's name, license plate number, photo, and the estimated time of arrival to your location;
- Letting your intuition and best judgment guide you; and
- contacting 911 in urgent situations.
Sexual assault is a serious crime. Attorney Steve Karimi is an experienced and dedicated lawyer who understands sexual assault cases. Speak with a member of our legal team regarding your case by calling (206) 621-8777 today.